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United States District Court for the District of Delaware
March 27, 2018, Decided; March 27, 2018, Filed
Civ. No. 16-1078-LPS
[*737] Wilmington, Delaware00-03837
March 27th, 2018
/s/ Leonard P. Stark
STARK, U.S. District Judge:
This appeal relates to nine Delaware bankruptcy cases, each commenced in connection with the respective debtors' asbestos-related liabilities ("Consolidated [*738] Cases"). The appeal arises from the most recent attempt to access thousands of exhibits ("2019 Exhibits") that were submitted to the Bankruptcy Court pursuant to Federal Rule of Bankruptcy Procedure 2019 in connection with administering the nine asbestos bankruptcies. Consistent with a series of orders entered by the Bankruptcy Court in implementing Rule 2019 (the "2019 Orders"), the 2019 Exhibits are in the possession of the Clerk of the Bankruptcy Court, but are not [**3] available on the public docket.
Appellant Honeywell, joined by Ford (together, "Appellants") filed a request (A1-154)1 in each of the Consolidated Cases seeking unlimited access to the 2019 Exhibits, even though all but one of the nine Consolidated Cases are closed.2 Appellants contend that they, like any entity, are entitled to indefinite access to the 2019 Exhibits, to use them for any purpose, including, but not limited to, investigating potential fraud in the claims process and advancing Appellants' legislative and lobbying activities. Appellees — including various Trust Advisory Committees3 ("TAC") and the Future Claimants Representatives4 ("FCR-) (collectively, "Appellees") — opposed the request, on grounds including that Appellants' admitted purposes for requesting access to the 2019 Exhibits are improper and, anyway, the 2019 Exhibits are useless for such purposes. (See A178)5
[*739] On November 8, 2016, the Bankruptcy Court entered its opinion and order in each of the Consolidated Cases, granting Appellants limited access to the 2019 Exhibits for the purpose of investigating potential fraud in the claims process; the Bankruptcy Court imposed additional limitations on access as well. In re Owens Corning, 560 B.R. 229 (Bankr. D. Del. 2016) (hereinafter, "Access Decision"). Because Appellants want unlimited access to the 2019 Exhibits, they have appealed the Bankruptcy Court's decision "to the extent that the Opinion and Order restrict Appellants' ability to access and use the 2019 Exhibits." (D.I. 16 at 1) Appellees have cross-appealed on the basis that the Bankruptcy Court should have denied Appellants access to the 2019 Exhibits altogether. (See D.I. 22)
For the reasons stated below, the Court will affirm the Bankruptcy Court's Access Decision.
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585 B.R. 733 *; 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50352 **; 2018 WL 1505569
IN RE: Motions Seeking Access to 2019 Statements.
Subsequent History: Affirmed by In re A C & S Inc., 2019 U.S. App. LEXIS 24668 (3d Cir. Del., Aug. 19, 2019)
Prior History: In re Owens Corning Armstrong World Indus., 560 B.R. 229, 2016 Bankr. LEXIS 3923 (Bankr. D. Del., Nov. 8, 2016)
Exhibits, bankruptcy court, Orders, cases, asbestos, Consolidated, disclosure, purposes, social security number, identity theft, proper purpose, common law, entity, claimants, public access, Appeals, proceedings, bankruptcy case, unlawful injury, seek access, restrictions, medical information, lobbying, records, undue risk, privacy, seal, privacy interest, medical record, protections
Bankruptcy Law, Procedural Matters, Judicial Review, Jurisdiction, Standards of Review, Abuse of Discretion, Clear Error Review, De Novo Standard of Review, Governments, Courts, Court Records, Bankruptcy, Case Administration, Bankruptcy Court Powers, Procedural Matters, Civil Procedure, Discovery & Disclosure, Discovery, Protective Orders, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Privacy Rights, Legislation, Interpretation, Judicial Review